TRENTON – Rutgers Law School Dean John Farmer, who sided with the Republicans in Congressional redistricting, opened the final vote on the map with an explanation.
“The map that I am prepared to support today is, in every measure, an improvement over the current map,” Farmer said.
Farmer said he focused on the two districts most affected by the population shift – aside from the minority-majority protected District 10. Districts 8 and 9, where U.S. Reps. Bill Pascrell (D-Paterson) and Steve Rothman (D-Fair Lawn) reside, were numbers two and three in population lost.
“This would have meant the loss of a Democratic seat,” he said, which he would have been fine with regardless of party. “The Democrats changed my mind,” convincing him to include U.S. Rep. Scott Garrett (R-Wantage) in a combined district.
Farmer also said District 3, home of U.S. Rep. Jon Runyan (R-Mount Laurel), was created as a fair district, which Democratic redistricting team members disputed.
The map only splits 14 municipalities, down from 29 in the old map, including two cities split between three Congressional districts.
Farmer said, “Both parties gain from the map.”
Democratic team leader Joe Roberts, former Assembly speaker, asked the team to delay a vote until the public can absorb the changes.
“Our deadline to adopt this map…is not today,” he said, but three-and-a-half weeks from now.
As far as District 3, Roberts said, “The notion that District 3 is a competitive district is a work of fiction.” With the removal of Cherry Hill, Roberts said Gov. Chris Christie would have won the district by 21 points.
He said the new combination of districts 8, 9, and 5 will split Bergen County’s Asian communities in two, with Teaneck, Bergenfield, and Dumont apart from Fort Lee.
Republican team leader Mike DuHaime said the Democrats had agreed to the timeline of a vote today, only objecting for the public’s right when their map wasn’t selected.
“At no point until this morning was there an objection from my colleagues on the other side,” DuHaime said.
After the Democratic objections were heard, the commission took a final vote, approving the map 7-6.